It's been an article of faith amongst a lot of the punditry and even voters that Democratic voters are not as enthusiastic this year as they were in 2008. There are many comments about how the President isn't connecting with the young people as he did four years ago, and that many Americans who came out in 2008 are going to stay home in 2012.
And despite the barnburner addresses tonight, Howard Fineman on MSNBC's opening day coverage of the DNC, chose to highlight a conversation he had with Mark Warner about Virginia:
I was talking to Mark Warner, the Senator from Virginia who had been Governor. He was traveling around the state on Labor Day when they have traditional political rallies in the state. "Four years ago," he said to me on the floor tonight, "four years ago there were Barack Obama signs everywhere, and the people who put up the signs--the roadside signs, the lawn signs--paid for the signs themselves. This time around, there were no signs to be seen in any of those rural, middle, and southern Virginia places." So the purpose of tonight--from Castro, and from the first lady--was to speak to those people, and plead with those people. I thought toward the end of the speech, Michelle Obama was saying, "Look, you know what the vision is. I'm reminding you of what the vision of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is. But we need you to get out there and work. We need you to be enthusiastic....If Barack Obama can't ignite those people in northern Virginia, he's gonna lose Virginia. If he loses Virginia, he could well lose the election.MSNBC commentator Michael Steele later followed up with this: "I thought that Howard Fineman was dead on point, too. The other theme tonight, in all the speeches, was to the base of the Democratic Party. Don't forget you gotta work, we gotta work this, because they do suffer an enthusiasm gap. Republicans are fired up and ready to go this fall, and this speech is to kickstart that for the Democrats."
Here's the thing, though. By the time Barack Obama got to the convention in 2008, he had been running in a very tough primary for months. The people who were backing him had been working on something worthwhile for months. The campaign had been convincing people to buy and display their lawn signs for months. Millions of new voters had been looking at--and been excited by--the candidate for months.
So of course there are no lawn signs out there this year, because there has been no primary battle. Now that the convention is here, we'll start seeing those lawn signs again because the battle is ON.
Sure there are a certain number of 2008 Obama supporters who have a layer of anger or cynicism or malaise toward him this time around. But the layer is pretty thin (partially because of the way Republicans have acted), and the convention speeches are going to peel away a lot of that layer. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, as weak as Romney's bounce was after his convention, Obama's bounce will be strong. And we're going to see more and more Obama signs, more and more Obama bumper stickers, more and more people wearing Obama t-shirts, more and more college students for Obama, and ... you get my drift.
And the pundits will be amazed.